Global Warming: How Long Do We Have Left?

It’s already bad. But when will things get so bad that it is obviously — obviously — the worst problem in the world? How long until we go over the cliff? That depends on how much we’ve heated up already, and how fast we’re getting hotter.

We have already reached dangerous levels. The heat waves throughout the northern hemisphere this summer have cost plenty, to the economy, in human suffering, ill health, even lives lost. The wildfires in California this year were much worse than they would have been without global warming. Just last year we set a new record for the total cost (adjusted for inflation) of billion-dollar climate-related disasters. They cost the U.S. over $300 billion.

As bad as it is already, extremely bad is yet to come. Some say it’ll be when total warming since pre-industrial times reaches 2°C, others say — and I agree with them, given the costs we’ve already seen — that we’ll cross that threshhold at 1.5°C. That’s the level at which the costs, both economically and in terms of human life and suffering, will threaten our ability to cope.

We’ve already warmed by 1.1°C since the year 1900. That year was probably a few tenths of a degree hotter than pre-industrial, so we’ve already gone at least that far. Just to be conservative, let’s say the total warming we’ve experienced already is 1.1°C. Another 0.4°C will bring us to extremely bad.

Since 1975, the globe has been warming at a steady rate, but how fast is that rate? We can take the five best-known estimates of global temperature and estimate their rates of increase: data from NASA, from NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), HadCRU (the Hadley Centre/Climate Research Unit in the U.K.), Cowtan & Way (independent researchers from the University of York), and the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project (an independent estimate organized by one-time climate skeptic Richard Muller).

Here are yearly averages from all five data sets, set to the same baseline so they’re directly comparable:

Estimating the warming rate for each, the highest rate is for the data from Cowtan & Way, a whopping 1.91 ± 0.24 °C per century. The “±” indicates a 95% confidence interval, so the real rate is almost surely between 1.67 and 2.15 °C per century. At those rates, we’ll reach extremely bad sometime between 2036 and 2042.

The lowest estimate, from the NOAA data, gives a rate of 1.73 ± 0.26 °C per century, i.e. the rate is between 1.47 and 1.99 °C per century. According to which we’ll hit extremely bad between 2038 and 2045.

However, those rates aren’t entirely due to man-made global warming. Other factors affect global temperature which are only temporary, things like volcanic explosions, variations in the output of the sun, and the el Niño southern oscillation.

We can allow for those known factors. Using one way, we get the global temperature change due to the things that aren’t temporary fluctuations, namely: global warming. Here they are:

The fastest rate is still from the data of Cowtan & Way, at 1.84 ± 0.14 °C per century. That’s somewhere between 1.70 and 1.98 °C per century, so we hit extremely bad between 2038 and 2041. The lowest rate is again from NOAA data at 1.67 ± 0.1 °C per century, somewhere in the range 1.57 and 1.77 °C per century. We hit extremely bad between 2040 and 2044.

Bottom line: at the rate we’re going, we’ll hit extremely bad, possibly intolerable, probably between 2040 and 2045. Maybe a couple years later, maybe a couple years earlier, but it’s not far away. Most of you reading this will still be around when it happens. Your kids will be. We’re headed for a cliff and it’s not far away.

That’s at the rate we’re going. So what do we do? Hit the brakes.

That means reduce greenhouse gas emissions, mainly carbon dioxide (CO2). We can’t stop immediately, that would bring such economic chaos it would also be extremely bad. If we stop immediately it’s like hitting a tree; we avoid going over the cliff only to die in the crash.

But if we make a giant effort to increase renewable energy while decreasing fossil-fuel energy (oil, coal, and gas), we can do it. We have to hit the brakes hard because there’s barely enough time to stop. That’s because we were warned that we’re headed toward a cliff over 30 years ago, but instead of stepping on the brakes we put the pedal to the metal. Now it’s time to slam on the brakes.

We can’t wait. If we wait until we reach the cliff to step on the brakes, we won’t be able to stop fast enough and we go over the edge.

But we can do it. What’s the best way? Is it a carbon tax? A cap-and-trade program? Massive investment in energy efficiency? All of the above? I don’t know.

But I do know that if governments — not just individuals but governments — don’t get started now, it’ll be too late. The problem is that even governments truly working on it aren’t doing enough, and the U.S. government insists on gunning the engine when we should be slowing down as fast as we can.

That’s where individuals come in. There’s only one way we can get the government to stop our headlong rush toward hell in a handbasket called Earth. VOTE. Vote climate. Make climate change your #1 issue in the voting booth.

For Americans, it starts this November with the mid-term elections. Vote climate.

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80 responses to “Global Warming: How Long Do We Have Left?

  1. Those conservative projections up through 2100 are *not* what’s happening. Earth system feedbacks (from permafrost, forests, soils etc.) will kick things into a higher gear.

  2. David B. Benson

    As I keep pointing out to no avail, we need to grow lots more plants. A suitably large project is given by Len Orstein et al., “Irrigated Afforestation of the Sahara desert and the Australian outback to…”, freely available for you to read online. Such a project only requires will and $$; assign it to the Army Corps of Engineers.

  3. The global economy is far more likely to collapse before we willingly put the brakes on.

  4. rhymeswithgoalie

    “That’s where individuals come in. There’s only one way we can get the government to stop our headlong rush toward hell in a handbasket called Earth. VOTE. ”
    (1) Vote in ALL of the down-ballot, local, school board, bond issues, and special elections.
    (2) Consider donating some money to candidates: many are turning down major donor or corporate PAC money, yet winning with lots of small donations.

  5. I’d have said we are already there. But if you want to know how long people can deny the blindingly obvious, just follow Brexit as we Brits jump over the cliff.

  6. Martin Smith

    I like this plan:
    It’s simple; it gets the incentives right; it’s not open to corruption, and it’s proposed by Real Republicans. Burn less carbon, get more money back than you spent. Make your products more energy efficient, sell more products. Everybody wins. And we won’t have to whack Leonardo’s superyacht mole anymore.

    • That plan is essentially the one endorsed by Citizens Climate Lobby, but the Climate Leadership Council* proposal calls for “SIGNIFICANT REGULATORY ROLLBACK” in addition. I, for one, would treat all such rollbacks as negotiating points, with no give on the essential components of an effective per-tonne-carbon fee on domestic fossil fuel production and equivalent tariff on embodied carbon in imported goods, together with 100% of the revenue returned to US tax filers in periodic (monthly or quarterly) equal-sized dividends. That is, the legislation 1) must be revenue-neutral and self-contained, 2) must decouple the dividend from the price signal ‘at the pump’, and 3) must ensure it’s not cost-effective for us to offshore our fossil carbon emissions.

      * has everybody seen “Life of Brian”?

    • There are three major differences between pure Fee and Dividend (F&D) as proposed by Jim Hansen and the Citizens Climate Lobby and the Baker-Schultz (“B-S”) Republican plan:
      1. F&D has the carbon fee rise from ~$10/ton to start and go up $10/ton every year for at least 10 years. B-S keeps the fee essentially fixed at $40/ton. The oil companies like this because they know it won’t hurt their business much. But of course, that means B-S won’t be nearly as effective at lowering emissions… which is the whole point of implementing a carbon pricing policy! This is a critical difference. Either we get serious about reducing emissions or we don’t. B-S is something to make us feel good and “do something” but not do enough.
      2. As mentioned, the B-S plan rolls back other environmental protections. We need a rising carbon price AND regulations to phase out fossil fuels if we are to have even a small chance of staying below +2ºC.
      3. B-S eliminates liability for fossil fuel companies’ pass actions. If I were them, I would want that too, but they are responsible for lying and delaying action on climate change and should be held accountable. Those actions will lead to the deaths of millions of people (at least) and the loss of southern Florida and most coastal cities.

      • Martin Smith

        I agree with your analysis, but I think it can’t get implemented because it doesn’t recognize the GOP principle: Government is best which governs least.” In this case, the GOP argument will be that, if we have an effective, revenue-neutral carbon tax, all regulations meant to minimize CO2 emissions become unnecessary. In principle, that’s true. If we have the tax in place. then if the tax per ton of CO2 is set high enough so that it becomes a significant addition to the prices of all products that cause CO2 emissions, then capitalism will automatically do the R&D to minimize CO2 emissions for their products so they can compete for market share. No altruism or ethics of capitalists is required. The profit motive works on behalf of minimizing CO2 emissions.

        If CO2 regulations are still required, it means the tax is too low. So the beginning tax level and how often and by how much it is changed are the only debate issues. Republicans can be made to accept that because corporations will accept it. Regulations can be subjective and piecemeal, and I suppose unfair. All that can be eliminated by focusing only on the initial tax level and how often and by how much it can be increased. Let the politicians just argue about that stuff.

  7. One of the best things to do is implement a Fee and Dividend carbon tax where all the money collected is given back to the public. Most people make more money on the dividend than they pay in higher prices so the public will support a high fee ($100/ton-CO2 in 10 years) so it will have a big impact. It also creates millions of jobs and grows the economy while cutting emissions by more that half in 20 years. For more on this, watch my TEDx talk:

    • Dan Miller: Really good video until you said “grow the economy.” IMO, it is basically a reassuring lie to tell people we can continue the fantasy of a growing economy with “alternative energy” sources.

      Economic activity is inextricably linked to energy flux—this is basic thermodynamics—and the rate of flow available from renewables (solar and its subsidiary wind) is incapable of replacing the millions of years of stored solar flux that fossil fuels contain. Geothermal and tidal are a different source (one is nuclear from the Earth’s core, the other based on planetary spin and gravitational pull from the moon), but it’s difficult to imagine either of them providing energy on any significant scale. Nuclear has it’s own issues.

      In short, I believe the best available science tells us that there are no alternative sources of energy capable of providing anywhere close to the per capita quantity—or quality—of energy needed to maintain anything resembling our current economic activity. Let alone to “grow the economy.” And that’s aside from other environmental problems caused by humanity’s huge and increasing appropriation of the biosphere and solar flux. E.g., see ‘human appropriation of net primary productivity.’

      Your statement “wealthy people use a lot more CO2 [energy]…” is very close to identifying a major part of why our society is incapable of appropriate response to the crisis. AGW is the modern global version of the environmental overshoots that caused many prior civilizations to collapse, and wealth inequity always seems to exacerbate the problem. Overshoot plus inequity = almost certain collapse. See

      I think the foregoing conclusion is why people are in psychological denial. It’s tough when the only real alternatives are a dramatic change in lifestyles and collapse. The beginning of your TEDx piece summarizes this problem well.

      As a local artist (Tom Jay, Port Townsend), put on a bumper sticker a number of years ago: “Civilization is Entropy in Drag.” Yes, it is a drag.

      • Fee and Dividend (F&D) grows the economy relative to not doing it. The economic figures do not account for alleviating the impacts of climate change, so the actual economic benefits are much greater. But it’s already too late to avoid big impacts, so you can say that F&D will hurt the economy less than continuing on the path we are on.

        You can propose that everyone live in a cave, but I don’t think that is going to be accepted. The reason we have climate change is because the world has a policy of letting people pollute the atmosphere with CO2 for free. It makes sense that to address the problem, we must change that policy.

        Wealth inequality is also a major problem and could lead to civilization collapse all on its own. The good news is that F&D helps address that issue by shifting money from high-CO2 wealthy people to low-CO2 poor and middle class people. What’s not to love?

      • Well, the idea of infinite economic growth on a finite planet is absurd but many people seem to think it’s possible (or maybe that it’s possible for a little bit longer). New Scientist had a special issue, maybe a decade ago, that covered this somewhat (subtitled something like “Is Economic Growth Killing the Planet”). Economic growth requires more goods and services. More goods and services require more resources, including energy. Occasional improvements in resource use notwithstanding.

        We will have to abandon that dream at some stage. It would be nice to think we could start planning for it ahead of time. It would be nice to think that.

      • “What’s not to love?” F & D does not address the problem of our failure to acknowledge that there are limits to growth. Mike Roberts says that pretty well.

      • Well, F&D also doesn’t address overpopulation, nuclear proliferation, and a host of other serious, global problems. It does do a good job at addressing the CO2 emissions problem which will lead to the collapse of civilization all on its own if not addressed soon. Why must a carbon pricing policy address all the worlds problems simultaneously?

        I agree that you can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet. I ask people the following: “Assume manufacturing started 3000 years ago and in the first year people manufactured a total of one cubic meter of stuff and that grew at 3 percent a year. How much stuff would we be making today? Would it cover the surface of the Earth? The answer is yes, it would cover the surface of the Earth OUT TO THE ORIBIT OF PLUTO!”

      • Dan, my point is that F&D is worse than simply not “address[ing] all the worlds problems simultaneously.” The hope that the mechanism will “do a good job at addressing the CO2 emissions problem” is a false promise.
        More use of traditional governance tools—pigovian taxes, equity promoting rebates, etc.—that have been used to address capitalism’s negative externalities during its world filling growth period no longer work. In Herman Daly’s terminology, we are now in a “full world” and those mechanisms do not account for the fact that growth of any kind is now at an end, we are in considerable overshoot, and thus shrinkage must begin, both per capita and overall.
        If F&D can somehow be designed to ensure per capita reductions in energy and material consumption, and then to overall reductions, I would reconsider my position. But your very own presentation assumes “grow the economy,”* so I have my doubts. It’s not a matter of people accepting the option of “living in a cave.” If we don’t downscale voluntarily, the results are likely to be far more unpleasant than whether or not to “accept” anything. There won’t be any choice at that point. That’s the point.

        * In Washington State, the F&D measure that was put on the ballot (Initiative 732, 2016 ballot) had this as the very first words: “The intent of this act is to encourage sustainable economic growth…” Totally nuts.

      • Yes, the term “sustainable growth” is an oxymoron. I’ve heard all sorts of dreams of how such a thing is possible but magic has no basis in reality. Dan’s example of what 3% growth does over an extended time period is very pertinent. And yet, 3%, is still regarded as a minimum growth target in economies. Mind you, it doesn’t matter if it’s 3% or 0.1%, eventually, it becomes impossible. We’re all leaving the problem for some future generation, though that may now be the ones currently in existence.

      • louploup2,
        What you are failing to comprehend is that increasing efficiency is in itself a type of growth–it increases GDP without increasing inputs to the system. Likewise, increasing the value of goods and services through technological advance is also a way of increasing GDP. These types of growth are not only possible, but will be necessary in any sustainable economy.

      • Familiar to some here, I’m sure, but still a good demonstration in the realm of energy growth (as distinguished from the larger and knottier issue of economic growth per se.)

        [At 2.3% annual growth in energy use] “…in about 2500 years from now, we would be using a large galaxy’s worth of energy. We know in some detail what humans were doing 2500 years ago. I think I can safely say that I know what we won’t be doing 2500 years hence.”

      • snarkrates: I’m not failing to comprehend that at all. Increasing efficiency can only delay the inevitable, they cannot make it optional. The limitation on efficiency in energy use as a long term solution is grounded in thermodynamics, the same physical laws that establish that there are limits in the first place.

        The only truly ‘sustainable’ economy is one that does not require growth.

      • louplou2 wrote: * “In Washington State, the F&D measure that was put on the ballot (Initiative 732, 2016 ballot) had this as the very first words: “The intent of this act is to encourage sustainable economic growth…” Totally nuts.”
        But to pass F&D legislation requires Republican support. Without the “encourage sustainable economic growth” phrase, the bill won’t pass. And F&D will provide some growth, so saying the bill is meant to encourage that growth is ok. Otherwise, how can F&D become law?

      • Technological and scientific innovation, however, is not necessarily a finite resource. We can always learn to do things better. I am fully cognizant of the limits to growth–have been since I read the first Club of Rome study. However, no one has figured out how to do economics with zero growth. The closest are probably South Sea Islanders–and their solutions might not work on a global scale.
        A technological society without growth is likely to lack social mobility.

      • snarkrates said: “… However, no one has figured out how to do economics with zero growth.”

        Try this:
        No-growth economy could mean fewer crashes and higher wages, study shows
        November 10, 2017, University of Sussex

        How capitalism without growth could build a more stable economy
        Earth has limited resources, so we can’t keep using them up. We need to look post-growth
        26 Feb 2018

      • A few points:

        1. We have climate change because there is a global policy in place that allows people to pollute the atmosphere with CO2 (and other GHGs) for free. It makes sense that we should change that policy if we want to lower emissions. In fact, I can’t comprehend how we can lower emissions without putting a price on emissions. F&D will get the price to $100/ton in 10 years and $200/ton in 20 years (and faster if (when) the s%*t really hits the fan). A very high price on CO2 will drive clean energy innovation and deployment. And at $100/ton, it will be cheaper to suck CO2 out of the air and sequester it underground than it will be to pay the fee, Direct Air Capture will hopefully become one of the biggest industries on Earth.

        2. F&D should not replace other regulations designed to reduce/eliminate CO2. We need to be at zero emissions by 2050 (actually, about MINUS 10 gigatons/year) and F&D will get us about halfway there. We will still need to ban fossil fuel cars, etc. as we move to zero.

        3. The Rebound Effect (Jevons Paradox) does not apply to innovations put in place because of a fee meant to lower usage. It applies when, everything else being equal, innovation makes the use of a commodity cheaper (like higher mpg cars) so more of it can be used for the same cost. But if the higher mpg cars come about because you made gas more expensive, that does not have the same rebound effect. It does mean that your emissions reductions may be lower than you expect for a given carbon fee, but with F&D the fee keeps going up every year.

        4. Exponential growth is a real problem, but it is not the same as climate change. We can keep growing for a while if we do it with clean energy. We can decide anytime to have a society not based on constant growth (the requirement for growth is a relatively recent concept). But the CO2 we put in the atmosphere will stay there for hundreds to thousands of years and the temperature we hit when we finally stop emissions will the temperature we live with (or more likely, don’t live with) for thousands of years. Climate change is a one-way affair (except for the possibility of Direct Air Capture). Things won’t get better when we finally stop emitting, they will just get worse more slowly. For example, the last time CO2 was todays value (about 410 ppm), sea levels were 75 feet higher than today. And that’s if we stop emitting now!

      • > Dan Miller: “We have climate change because there is a global policy in place that allows people to pollute the atmosphere with CO2 (and other GHGs) for free. … I can’t comprehend how we can lower emissions without putting a price on emissions.”

        Ummm … F&D is worse than than polluting for free. It pays most people enough to overcome the price increases, and it doesn’t increase price enough (or fast enough) to make much difference in the behavior of wealthy high emitters and making the payment puts them on the moral high-ground for continuing emit. F&D would be a big flop.

        What would work is this. (1) A declining cap on fossil fuel production, on a set schedule steep enough be effective. (2) As well as providing surety on meeting emissions targets, that will drive innovation (e.g. efficiency improvements), and newable energy construction and use. (3) A carbon or energy rationing program should be on standby to ensure fair treatment of all people (meeting all needs and many wants) when there is a gap between supply and demand.

        > Dan Miller: “The Rebound Effect (Jevons Paradox) does not apply to innovations put in place because of a fee meant to lower usage.”

        You misunderstand the Rebound Effect; your definition is too narrow. What is “meant” by a policy is not a factor in whether this phenomenon is triggered. It is purely a socio-economic matter of whether lower cost or improved convenience causes an increased use of energy or resources. In fact, F&D should be expected to cause a substantial rebound effect for reasons that others and I have explained in this comments section.

      • Martin Smith: “But to pass F&D legislation requires Republican support.” In some jurisdictions maybe. Depending on the coalition and the content of the bill, it can pass in Washington State without Republicans. The opening sentence is not why I-732 got crushed at the polls in 2015. 732 lost in part *because* of the authors’ intent to get Republican support. As with so much else with respect to Republicans, expecting rationality from that party is a fools errand.

        That compromise in the content of I-732 led to the environmental community being split—most groups opposed it—resulting in a weak 51% yes in King County (Seattle). Without 60%+ yes votes in Central Puget Sound (primarily King, Snohomish, Pierce, and Thurston counties), no polarized initiative can overcome strong conservative opposition in the rest of the state. We are not California.

        “Without the ‘encourage sustainable economic growth’ phrase, the bill won’t pass.” Most petition signers and voters do not read the text of the measure. The language I quoted indicates the lack of logic by the promoters, not the voters. But you’re right on the fundamental point: our entire cultural norm is to accept growth as a given. We’re addicted. As with many addictions, it is not a good sign for our survival.

        Snarkrates: “no one has figured out how to do economics with zero growth.” In addition to Larry’s comment, your statement is irrelevant. We are well beyond the limits to growth, i.e., we’re in overshoot. Whether or not humans have “figured out” how to get off the growth machine matters little to the laws of physics which indicate it’s going to happen one way (voluntarily) or another (involuntarily and far more unpleasantly).

        Dan Miller:
        1. We have climate change because our energy supply is 80%+ fossil fuel based, and we have too many people. It will not be “cheaper to suck CO2 out of the air and sequester it” because the technology to do so is no closer to reality than fusion reactors.
        2. Yes, we should use the tools we can to reduce GHG emissions.
        3. This argument still seems to rely on efficiency having no limits, but I’m not sure; the logic is not clear to me.
        4. “We can keep growing for a while if we do it with clean energy.” True, but not without making our overshoot worse. “Clean energy” cannot replace our current level of consumption, not even close.

        Larry’s comment below is accurate; F&D is largely a cornucopian fantasy.

      • Larry,
        Unfortunately, stability is only one criterion–and, indeed, if you are one of the have-nots, stability might not even be a good thing. A stable economy is one with low risk, and so it will also have low return. That doesn’t give the bottom 99% much to work with when it comes to improving their lots.
        The studies you cited don’t even address the real challenges of a low- to no-growth economy: caring for the elderly, educating and caring for the young, redressing inequality, sustaining innovation…

        Indeed, those calling for an immediate end to growth are missing the point: Zeroing out growth does us no good if our zero-growth economy still has a fossil-fuel based energy economy. It does us no good if it cannot feed, clothe, house, educate… the 10 billion people who will be on Earth by the time human population crests and (hopefully) begins to gradually decrease. Ten billion poor people will trash the planet as assuredly as 100 million rich people.

        For the foreseeable future, we are going to have to find a way to keep the global economy sufficiently dynamic that we can build an entire new infrastructure for energy, transport… If we fold now, we fold with a losing hand.

    • Dan, although F&D would be effective in redistributing some wealth, it will be ineffective at reducing CO2 emissions, if at all. None of the studies that favor CCL’s F&D proposal have looked at the self-defeating rebound effect it will cause. The problem is, much of the increased spending by the large majority who will have a net profit (dividend vs. the their increase in costs due to higher prices) that will go largely to things or activities that cause additional CO2 emissions. At the same time, many of the wealthy who will have a net loss can afford that loss without changing their lifestyles much if at all, and moreover they will feel morally justified in doing so because they “pay the price.”

      F&D is a failure in logic, due to not holistically considering the socio-economic system it would be part of. And it is a very dangerous failure because, in posing as an easy and effective solution, it sucks in a lot of people and activism that could otherwise work toward a real solution.

      • Don’t know how to “like” replies here but I’ve repeated, in a later reply, what Larry said here, so consider that a “like”!

      • It is easy to assert that F & D would be ineffective; however, that has not been the experience on the ground in jurisdictions such as BC, where the carbon tax has had a measurable effect on emissions.

        Nor, IMO, is the logic based on economic strata valid. The point isn’t who does the spending (or not); the point is what they spend it on. And rich or poor, everybody prefers to spend less for the same utility (with the exception of conspicuous consumption, where the display IS the utility). Hence, as expense accrues to carbon-intensive ‘solutions’, people shift systematically toward low-carbon ones.

        That’s the effective logic. And, empirically, it seems so far to be validated by real-world experience.

      • Doc, re B.C. reductions: Maybe: indicates some decrease and even a delinking of GDP and GHG, but data is over 3 years old. And the causality with the fee systems is not clear.

  8. You make a good case for “hitting the brakes hard,” but a carbon tax or cap-and-trade don’t do that. The brake pedal needs to be a firm, declining cap on fossil fuel production, on a predetermined, steep schedule. Kevin Anderson (Tyndall Centre) suggests a 10-15% per year cut for wealthy nations, and I think he is right. To cope with that decline we need, as you said, “a giant effort to increase renewable energy” – an emergency mobilization. That may be insufficient, leaving a gap at least at times, so we also need to have a carbon or energy rationing program at-the-ready – and if we start this three-part program soon perhaps only slight or no rationing will be needed. While there may be some taxation to aid a fast build of renewable energy, its purpose would not be to control emissions – that function is provided by the declining cap on fossil fuel production. There can be price controls on energy if its supply becomes short, to keep prices fair to all. In comparison, trying to control emissions via a carbon tax or cap and trade increases costs regressively, burdening those who are less wealthy or poor.

    What I have described is a geophysically and socially fail-safe policy system (doing the best we possibly can under the circumstances), present and future politics aside. It sketches a complete system. I am unaware of any other complete proposal that can provide such certainty for a fast stop, fairness and the best shot at comfortable survival.

    • “The brake pedal needs to be a firm, declining cap on fossil fuel production, on a predetermined, steep schedule.”

      You lost me there, Rad; that sounds to me precisely like a cap-and-trade plan–the ‘trade’ simply being a mode by which the ‘cap’ you propose would be enforced. Perhaps you’d prefer a cap enforced by straight regulatory fiat, but it’s possible that that might mean less mitigation for the economic cost to society.

  9. Reblogged this on Don't look now and commented:
    My thoughts on this…Just read it.

  10. “…at the rate we’re going, we’ll hit extremely bad, possibly intolerable, probably between 2040 and 2045.” This is an excellent argument for things becoming intolerable ( however you define that) long before 2040, since there is nothing to assure us that heating will continue AT THE RATE WE’RE GOING. Multiple amplifying feedbacks, already triggered past tirreversible tipping points, assure us that actually, the rate will ACCELERATE. Not only that but there is no reason other than wishful thinking to expect humanity to apply any sort of break to emissions from burning fuel.

  11. Sorry to say, I agree with witsendnj. Sorry to say, I just don’t think that we’ll do the necessary things collectively and globally that will make any difference. And that supposes that we haven’t already passed the point of no return from a new climate state comparable to 50 million years ago in the blink of a geologic eye!

    [Response: I can’t prove that it’s not too late, but you can’t prove it is too late. Of this I’m certain: I’m not going down without a fight.

    VOTE. Vote climate.]

    • David Bindoff

      I agree with both. Proof is almost irrelevant in the timeframes. Vote climate is a fundamentally important action. Not adding to the legion of lies is also fundamentally important. Tamino is best placed to adequately represent our probabilistic pathway as far as I can see. Thanks for your efforts.

    • I’ll say, as I usually do, what Ed has said – we’re too late to save a lot of what we had.

      I’ll also support what Tamino says – we cannot go down without a fight, because every 0.1 °C mitigated has substantive ecological and socio-economic benefits.

      These posts of Tamino’s are probably the most important that he has ever made. This is where the real nub of the problem exists, and our collective action or inaction is what matters, now and for millennia and epochs into the future. We will judge ourselves by what we do, our children and grandchildren will judge us more harshly by what we do (and do not), and further generations hence will revile us for what we did – and chose not to do, when we could have so done…

  12. Despair is not adaptative. And the correct response, if entirely conquered by it, is to quietly have another drink and stay out of everyone else’s way. IMO.

    So, a hearty second to “VOTE climate!”

    And think about attending one of the events this September 8 (full disclosure: spent an hour or so last night on a planning call for the one here in Columbia, SC):

    Chances are, there’s an event somewhere near you.

  13. I will vote a pretty strenuous pro-climate ballot as I have done throughout my lifetime. My candidates have seldom won elections and when they have, they have disappointed me with tepid measures, but so what? From my perspective, this is about how we live, whether we are engaged in a just and compassionate struggle against some systems that are driven by greed and an elevation of individual liberty and success above all else. It’s a values struggle and a failure to see my values gain traction in the public policy sphere does not mean that much to me at this point. I want to live my life in accord with the values that are important to me and that is what I will do.

    If you pin your hopes on the outcomes of various elections, be sure to have a plan b in case the outcomes go another way or if your electoral champions turn out to be incapable of delivering the goods. Despair is not useful or fun. Be happy and thankful to be alive on an amazing planet. Commit to protection of this amazing planet, but don’t forget, we are just one species and we have entered the sixth great extinction event. A lot of species are disappearing. The planet will recover and bring forth new forms. Connect to the amazing ability of this planet to bring forth new forms, but don’t get too connected or invested in any specific form. Hug the trees if you want, but stand back and behold the forest on a regular basis.

    My congressional choice for the fall election went out in the primary, so I will be voting for a centrist democrat who hopes to unseat a pretty girl republican who currently holds the office. Neither of these folks would embrace the idea of “hitting the brakes hard” if it has economic consequences that will cost them an election.

    [Response: Take some consolation in the fact that just by electing a Democrat you will increase the strength of the caucus, enabling more and stronger climate legislation. We really need to break up the Republican *party* hold on our legislative branch.]

  14. Glen Koehler

    Trajectory based on IPCC 2014 estimates that most closely match recent emissions trend (RCP8,.5) estimates 1.5C around 2030. Rise over next few years may slow a bit with downside of solar cycle and possible lack of a robust El Nino (having just had a blowout in 2016). But 2025-2030 could bring acceleration as solar cycle returns to upside and ENSO cycle brings increased odds for strong El Nino. +1.5C already locked in by previous emissions, and would already be there except for aerosol blocking solar irradiation. So we are already doing inadvertent geoengineering. Ditto to other comments about accelerating positive feedbacks. Just this week there was ominous news about permafrost thaw in Russia.

    As always, thanks for good work Tamino. But I have a request, particularly in light of previous post about confusing climate info. I wish all temperature charts showed anomaly with reference to a preindustrial baseline. Hansen uses 1880-1920 NASA GISS average as baseline. His argument being that is the beginning of reliable global record. As usual, he’s spot on, but not just for his stated reason. 1850-1900 from Berkeley BEST is about 0.09C warmer than 1880-1920 GISS. with slight decline across the period. But the uncertainty around those values is much larger.

    Schurer, Mann et al 2017 estimate that human impact was already underway by 1750. Their value for 1400-1800 temperature just so happens to almost exactly match the 1880-1920 GISS. There is no single preindustrial average baseline to point to, but the 1400-1800 Schurer, Mann et al, and 1880-1920 NASA GISS, value is a good proxy. That baseline is 0.275C below 1951-1980 baseline used for NASA GISS. So just subtract 0.275 from NASA GISS and you have current monthly value relative to a good proxy for preindustrial.

    I think people get confused when they see temperature chart such as this Tamino post that shows an anomaly of +0.6C in 2020 when the text is saying we are already at 1.1C.

    Through August 30 observations and short term global forecast, 2018 is on track for year end average of 1.09 +/- 0.11 C (approx. 95% CI) over 1880-1920 / “preindustrial”. The trailing 5-year NASA GISS average (2014-2018) is +1.13 C and rising.

    Finally, RE carbon fee/tax comments. Agree with Dan Miller. Carbon fee/tax is not regressive if the money is refunded on a per capita basis. See Citizens Climate Lobby proposal – REMI economic study, and Dan Miller Ted talk. The Republican/Climate Leadership Council version has a poison pill of preventing any other EPA regulation of carbon dioxide, and a ridiculously slow rate of increase in the fee such that that cost of fossil fuels won’t rise fast enough to reduce the emissions curve. It sounds nice but is effectively a fig leaf.

    Meanwhile, James Inhofe, Heartland Inst. and fellow lunatics aren’t satisfied with Trump killing Clean Power Plan, they want to reverse science so that EPA has no authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. What do these people say to their grandkids?

    • Glen Koehler

      Typo correction – I meant to say “add 0.275 to monthly NASA GISS anomaly”, which is relative to 1951-1980 to get the temperature increase since 1880-1920 proxy value for pre-industrial average.

  15. In some ways, I think that, “How long do we have?” and “When is it too late?” aren’t the right questions. It is not as if a giant “Game Over” sign will start blinking when we exceed 3 degrees C. Things can continue to get worse and worse–exponentially so, as warming increases. It is not even as if the collapse of human civilization would be the nadir. Imagine the destruction–and consequent greenhouse gas release–that occur as civilization collapses and we have 10 billion pissed off humans trying to survive on a planet whose support capabilities have been degraded to the point where 500 million would be a challenge.

    The antidote for despair is to realize that things can always get worse, so we have to make them better.

  16. Tony Noerpel

    I’ve noticed in ipcc AR5 figure spm.5b that for a doubling of atmospheric CO2 equivalent (570 ppmv) the warming over preindustrial would be only about 2.2 degrees C. Isn’t that low or am I interpreting the figure incorrectly?

    thank you, Tony

    • Glen Koehler

      I can’t find the spm.5b, but will hazard a guess that the warming shown in the chart is Transient Climate Response TCR, which studies pin at about 1.8-2.2C as temperature right at time CO2 level is reached, not the 10-30 year lag value for Equlibrium Climate Senstivity ECS, which is the value that hovers around 3.2C in various studies.

  17. In his Sciam article, around the time of the Paris agreement, Michael Mann estimated that we were at 1.2C above preindustrial. Since then temperature must have increased. You say we’re at 1.1C at least, so chances are that we’re at 1.2C or above (you’re phrase was “a few tenths of a degree hotter” than 1.1C). Given that there is a good chance we’re significantly closer to 1.5C than 1.1C, surely we should be talking about going over the edge much earlier than 2040?

    Where do aerosols fit into this? I’ve seen estimates of 0.29C to over 1C of masked warming from aerosols. We need to reduce fossil fuel burning but wouldn’t that, paradoxically, get us to the tipping point even earlier?

    As someone else mentioned, I think Kevin Anderson has it right, in that richer countries need to cut emissions at a very high rate and starting now (it’s always “now” or “yesterday”, but that never happens). But governments around the world (and most of their citizens, at least in countries not riddled with strife) seem to think that economic growth is the most important. Until that changes, it seems like very wishful thinking to think that countries will do anything significant to alter our trajectory. It will alter, though, because $300 billion of damage is not sustainable year after year (though it probably does boost economic growth for a while). Increasing numbers of climate refugees is not sustainable. Economic growth is not sustainable.

    Will enough people come to their senses soon enough? It seems increasingly unlikely, so hold on for the ride!

    • “As someone else mentioned, I think Kevin Anderson has it right, in that richer countries need to cut emissions at a very high rate and starting now (it’s always “now” or “yesterday”, but that never happens).”

      A little qualification here might be useful. Most of the richer countries actually have cut emissions, some quite significantly. For instance, here’s the time series of US emissions:

      Some nations that stayed in Kyoto, and (unlike my native land, Canada) took their obligations seriously, did much better, unsurprisingly. For instance, the UK:

      Click to access 2016_Final_Emissions_Statistics_one_page_summary.pdf

      Total GHG emissions down 41% from 1990. Not too bad, on the current (inadequate) scale of things.

      So the part that is missing is in many cases the “very high rate” part. A lot of us seem often to be thinking that nothing has been done, but that is not the case. It’s just that we need to do a LOT more.

      • Doc Snow said, “Most of the richer countries actually have cut emissions, some quite significantly.”

        Not really. Those stats don’t include embedded emissions in imported goods. Also, international aviation is excluded.

      • Exactly right and thanks for pointing out that a growing segment of emissions (air travel) is not accounted for at all. I understand sea freight is similarly excluded. I try to point out consumption based accounting is a better measure (though vastly more inaccurate) as there are still those who praise the effort of countries who apparently cut their emissions. As mentioned at the top of this document, “Their work [the work of various researchers] demonstrates that the reductions called for by the Kyoto Protocol have found themselves negated by the emissions that the developed world as imported from other corners of the globe. In other words, that the world may have engaged in no more than a process of emissions offshoring.”

      • Doc, I’m always skeptical of data on emissions from within national boundaries. This study is about cities but I’ve seen others over the last few years which show that, when emissions due to consumption is taken into account, there has been almost no change in the emissions of the richer countries. I suppose no change is better than increasing emissions but it is not reduction. So we should all take national figures with a pinch of salt, countries like the US and the UK are not doing anywhere near as well as they appear to be doing. So I still maintain that nothing substantial has been done to mitigate warming, despite nearly 30 years of knowing enough to realise it’s a big problem that is now a predicament.

      • Mike, you are, of course, entitled to your opinion. And I would agree that the matter of ‘cross-border’ leakage is worth considering. However, if you are going to reassign responsibility for those emissions to the developed nations, are you going also to deduct them from those developing nations doing the manufacturing? If not, you are in effect double counting them.

        Moreover, I am in turn skeptical of the notion that declines in emissions in countries like the US can be attributed largely to ‘outsourcing emissions.’ For one thing, US manufacturing hasn’t actually stopped growing (though there was one huge-ass downturn in 2008.) But at least in terms of inflation-adjusted dollars, output now is something like 50% higher today than it was in 1990. Particularly interesting is the fact that manufacturing has been growing since 2009, whereas emissions, broadly speaking, have not.

        It’s a similar picture for the UK, where there has been no sustained decline in manufacturing that’s correlated with the decline in emissions–and remember, for the UK, that decline is quite large and goes back to 1990. (Note that the chart below is set up differently, graphing *year-on-year percentage changes*, not absolute values, of production.)

        It seems quite clear that these economies have undergone some form of structural change, but it’s not a simple matter of outsourcing manufacturing. Given that the UK in particular was quite intentional about reducing emissions, I have to think that the ‘greening’ of their energy economy was a significant factor.

      • Doc, consumption based accounting is not production based accounting. No double counting involved.

        I’m not sure about the US in particular though this article shows US underreporting emissions by 500 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2011 due to reporting production based, instead of consumption based emissions.There have been many papers about this but I can’t put my finger on them right now (though earlier comments of mine pointed at more info). This graphic shows UK emissions generally rising (the graph finishes during the GFC when emissions did fall) rather than falling when consumption based accounting is used. Such a situation is also mentioned in this article.

        Whether some countries have undergone some kind of structural change won’t be shown without the full data. Consumption based emissions are uncertain but a much better way of assessing whether an economy is really de-carbonising rather than just paying lip-service to the idea. In order to mitigate on the basis of equity, we need to understand just who is to blame for the increases we continue to see in atmospheric GHG levels. Whilst it could be argued that the producers of emissions should be made responsible, surely the consumers of the products of those emissions bear a lot of the blame also.

        (BTW, I’m sure I’ve seen consumption based figures on the EPA web site in the past, such data is now missing)

      • Mike Roberts, regarding changes in data display on EPA site: I think that is a significant event. If the data was up for very long, it could well be preserved in the Web Archive (the “wayback” machine— A comparison of past and present climate data display on U.S. agency sites is a good thing to have.

      • “Whether some countries have undergone some kind of structural change won’t be shown without the full data.”

        Sure it can. The type and significance of the change may be harder to determine, but you don’t need the full picture to show that carbon intensity is dropping very significantly. And if the carbon intensity of manufacturing is drastically lower, that’s structural because it’s a result of durable change in technology and/or practice.

        That’s not to say that there can’t be a structural change in consumption patterns, too, nor that it wouldn’t be very desirable from a mitigation point of view.

        I think that both production and consumption-based accounting have their advantages and their place. If one does want to tease out that ‘big picture’–and that seems desirable to me on grounds both scientific and practical–then I think you are going to need both.

        As a slightly oblique example of this, I note that the carbon intensity of Chinese manufacture has been declining pretty steadily for quite a while:

        I don’t want to make too much of that; carbon intensity is a much-abused metric, and one that politicians have been happy to abuse in order to avoid action on meaningful mitigation targets. (Cf., Canada’s Stephen Harper.) But it’s pretty noticeable that across the board, people continue to make more for less emissions per unit. Kinda sets the table for great results if an ‘anti-consumption revolution’ were ever to get traction.

      • Doc, that link is for carbon intensity of GDP, not manufacturing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a measure of carbon intensity for manufacturing. The reason I mentioned the lack of evidence of structural change in the UK economy is because estimates of emissions based on the activity within that economy do not show decreasing emissions (except during periods of recession). If one wants to use emissions data for signs of a structural change in an economy then we really need good estimates of the emissions that were caused by the economic activity of that country. That can’t be done with production-based emissions, only with consumption-based emissions and I think I’ve pointed at a number of links which show the picture is nowhere near as rosy as some people paint it, because production-based emissions are not a good metric of an economy’s GHG emissions and yet all we normally see are production-based figures (which are also used in carbon intensity measures).

      • Mike, that the intensity figures I cited have to do with GDP, not just manufacturing, is largely the answer to the objection you voice, because GDP is a measure of all economic activity within the economy–including sales. So yes, GDP does give us a (reasonable proxy) measure of consumption, too.

        Also, there is a reason why production-based estimates are so common, or rather several related ones. First, it’s under national jurisdiction, which consumption-based estimates are not. Second, it’s much more straightforward to calculate, partly because of reason #1, and partly because emissions in (say) China have to be attributed to multiple ‘customer nations’, which involves methodological complication (and attendant imprecisions and errors.) Third, it’s much more straightforward for nations to actually do something about emissions occurring within their borders.

        None of that is to say that consumption-based metrics aren’t useful. But I don’t think just tossing out production-based metrics would be a good idea, nor do I think that just dismissing what they have to tell us is helpful now.

      • Doc, you’re right that GDP is a reasonable measure of consumption. Indeed, I suppose that’s what it’s designed to measure (at least in terms of value) but it’s the divisor that I’m querying. If you divide GDP by the emissions from within the territory of that economy, you don’t get a figure for the carbon intensity of that economy and, to be honest, I can’t think of how the figure you do get is useful at all – it’s like measuring the average yield of orange trees by counting all the oranges and then dividing by the number of oak trees you have. I know that’s not an ideal analogy but I hope you get the drift. If you don’t take into account all of the emissions due to the economic activity, then you don’t get an accurate picture of how carbon intensive the economy is and certainly can’t fairly compare that figure with a similarly calculated figure from any other economy.

        I also agree that territorial measurements are much easier, plus they are quicker to calculate and less error prone than consumption based accounting. But its being easier to calculate doesn’t make it a good measure. If we’re trying to apportion the effort of mitigation fairly, the only measure that makes sense, IMO, is consumption based emissions.

        I really can’t think of a fair reason to use production based accounting, only a convenience reason and to enable some countries to feel good about themselves.

      • Mike, your point about ‘the divisor’ is well-taken.

        On the other hand, the point of production-based metrics is more than just that it’s easier–as indeed you say elsewhere in your comment. Crucially, those are the emissions which a nation can exert direct or indirect regulatory or economic control.

        I also have a little trouble with the idea that because, say, some Chinese emissions were a consequence of demand in the US or the UK, that therefore the US or UK (or whomever) ‘owns’ them. No-one forced China to do the manufacturing, right? So responsibility is shared in some fashion, strictly speaking. But it seems to me that working out the proportionality of that is extremely fraught.

        There’s a general agreement that developing nations deserve more leeway with emissions than developed ones. Mightn’t a push for strictly consumption-based metrics open one or several cans of worms?

      • Doc, yes, I’d hope that countries try to reduce their territorial emissions. If all do it significantly, then we get some of what is needed. We do need behavioural change also; after all, exporting countries are simply supplying what the importing country wants. There is also the issue of companies off-shoring their manufacturing (and, in some cases, services).

        It’s complicated but we need the full picture to make the right choices.

  18. The elephant in the room
    As the economy’s in china and India mature they will begin to reduce the aerosol pollution from their massive growth in coal fired generation over the last few decades .

    Writing in the Huffington Post in late 2015, Prof. Michael E Mann noted:

    ” While greenhouse warming would abate, the cessation of coal burning… would mean a disappearance of the reflective sulphate pollutants (aerosols) produced from the dirty burning of coal. These pollutants have a regional cooling effect that has offset a substantial fraction of greenhouse warming, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere. That cooling would soon disappear, adding about 0.5°C to the net warming… So evidently, we don’t have one-third of our total carbon budget left to expend, as implied by the IPCC analysis. We’ve already expended the vast majority of the budget for remaining under 2°C. And what about 1.5°C stabilization? We’re already overdrawn.”

    Cap and trade or a carbon tax is not going to cut it for the reduction we need now.

    Look forward to a very bumpy ride.
    I have made life choices that I hope will insulate me somewhat from what is coming
    Not quite full on survivalist but maximizing my potential to prosper with out dependence on a potentially disrupted global economy.

  19. I wonder what area (size) would be needed as a minimum, medium and optimum for a valid afforrestation experiment in the Sahara as suggested by Ornstein et al. (2009). And of course where in the Sahara. The experiment should obviously include desalination from seawater, underground (aquifer) storage, employment of local human and material resources wherever possible, et cetera. Maybe a world-wide crowd sourcing, plus donated legal, diplomatic, management and such assistance (e.g. retired experts). Is there anyone out there capable and willing to kickstart such an effort?

    • David B. Benson

      Rob Smit —- To good some good requires almost all of the Sahara plus most of the Australian outback. You can check by reading the Ornstein et al. paper as access is free.

      Nobody, as far as I know, has estimated the economics beyond what is found in that one paper but clearly this would require many tens of billions of dollars per annum.

      • There is a school of thought that says that the biggest potential change is in reforming agriculture. The science is, I think, nascent, but the fact is that on one hand, current ag is highly emitting for multiple reasons, and on the other, pilot projects seem to indicate potential for practices that sequester CO2 at significant rates by building soil. So at a minimum, there could be lots of emissions ‘headroom’ for such changes. Lots more to investigate on that front, but I’ll try to round up some indicative references if I get a chance later.

  20. We have already warmed like 1.5-1.7 C if we use the 1750 baseline. I think things are a lot worse than we think for there is certainly many things that are happening that we don’t know about. We’re headed for collapse….soon!

  21. With all due respect, you *do* know. You answered your own question: “What’s the best way? Is it a carbon tax? A cap-and-trade program? Massive investment in energy efficiency? All of the above?”
    Yes, the answer is all of the above. And so much more. Urgently.

  22. We can buy an electric car. It doesn’t have to be a Tesla. One can get a used Leaf for around $9K still with a factory warranty.

    Vote your ballot *and* your pocketbook.

    • Yes, visible actions say a lot. Driving a Leaf or other EV is essentially a putting a mobile billboard for ZEV transport out there where everyone sees it. Plus, it gives you relevant party talk that people actually want to hear!

  23. Most electric cars are still charged by power that comes from fossil fuels and are built in factories driven by fossil fuel power and run on roads covered in fossil fuels.
    Buy a horse and ride on dirt roads would be more “Yes, visible actions say a lot.”
    Will enough people come to their senses soon enough?

    • Most? Says who? You’re assuming. And increasingly, it’s not a good assumption. California is the epicenter of EVs, due to their forward-looking regulatory environment. And according to this source, in 2017, fossil fuels were less than 44% of California generation (and the vast majority of that was natgas, with other fossil fuels making up less than 2% of the FF total):

      Their stated goal is to get to 100% renewable by (IIRC) 2045.

      Combine the 56% non-emitting power with the fact that there is a factory-to-wheel-wells efficiency advantage of something like 4-1 for EVs, and you’re saving a lot of emissions by picking an EV over an ICE.

      As to production, increasingly the NV giga-factory is going to be solar-powered. The arrays have been expanding lately, and again, the goal is to produce 100%–actually, more than that, as they want to have some margin. Most of the time, it’s likely they’ll be selling surplus into the grid.

      And no, for the most part, roads are not actually covered in fossil fuels–though asphalt is bituminous and concrete emits CO2 as it sets, so maybe that’s what you meant.

      Sadly, most people can’t actually ride a horse to work, and won’t be able to do so any time soon, no matter what state their ‘senses’ are in.

  24. “But if we make a giant effort to increase renewable energy while decreasing fossil-fuel energy (oil, coal, and gas), we can do it..”
    I agree wholeheartedly with this comment.
    As soon as we can reliably and affordably do so.
    This is not just a money issue.
    Affordability also includes the downside of giant wind and solar farms, problems with ground water and subsidence in using thermal heat and cost of rebuilding after wear and tear.

  25. @Mike Roberts You could certainly add Australia to that list of dismal performers. I expect/suspect, we, here, are top of that list. Our emissions accounting is not what anyone sensible could call robust.

    As far as electric cars or livestock based transport….I think the freedom of individualized transport options that aren’t pedal powered need to be forgotten about as soon as possible (yeah likely…lol).
    I really have never seen how the whole world can own their own automobiles. I don’t think it is workable.

    I considered getting myself a camel once but just don’t really have the space …..and camel fuel is even in short supply.

    warning distressing images of camelicide. >>

    …I always try and be a cheery sod….just some times “It’s beyond my control..”*
    * ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ (1988)

  26. I also would so totally support @Doc Snow’s statement that “Despair is not adaptative.”
    I don’t necessarily support the suggestion of ‘having another drink’…too much risk of stupid.
    I do think that despair is one of those unaccounted for self reinforcing feedback loops that no-one (not even Oncelers*) needs.

    *Theodor Geisel (1971)

  27. Just came in from another list ( by Lance Olsen in Montana):

    e360: In a paper in Ecology and Society [ – “The projected timing of climate departure from recent variability”], you were quite critical of the conservation biology community and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for not talking about the issue of overpopulation.

    Why, in your estimation, don’t they talk about this issue? What is holding them back?

    Mora: It’s pure fear. It seems amazing, but friends of mine recommended to me not to publish that paper. They said, “This paper is going to be damaging to you. You don’t get it. You don’t need it.” What is remarkable, though, is that after the paper got published, I had multiple people calling me to endorse it.

    e360: Did they endorse it publicly?

    Mora: No, just to me. This is really the problem. But why we don’t take it on? I have no clue. Because the data are very clear. I guess the problem is that it can backfire. We have seen, historically, situations in which a scientist has taken on an issue and there are people who have been fired, or attacked by interest groups. So I guess the problem is fear of retaliation.

    End of Extract.
    We need to get over our fear of retaliation. We each have one relatively short life to act. Have courage! Speak truth to power!

  28. There seems to be quite a bit of negotiation going on about how to keep civilisation, as we know it, going. A bit of efficiency here, a piece of innovation there, perhaps a switch to higher value goods and services. Maybe growth for a little longer then a levelling out.

    IMO, this is all wishful thinking. As Dan Miller said, growth is a fairly recent concept. However, we’re well and truly hooked on it. DAC is a hope for some of us to keep living as we are by simply capturing and storing the any emitted CO2 (heck, apparently, it may even become cheaper to do that than pay the carbon fee, for ever). Or maybe fee and dividend won’t have a rebound effect, even though most who could afford it may not alter their lifestyles much and those who couldn’t afford the energy may be able to better afford it as they will get enough of a dividend to more than compensate for the extra costs (assuming that the dividend is equally distributed). I doubt F&D would have as much impact as some hope.

    Of course, eventually DAC will be moot, as fossil fuel production declines (if it wasn’t for fracking, we’d be well down that road already) and growth will inevitably become a thing of the past and of the far distant future. Sadly, I see no prospect of de-growth becoming a realistic policy of governments likely to be elected or otherwise come to power. With most environmental problems we have being the result of factors other than climate change (though that factor is rapidly catching up) I don’t see much hope for improvement with current thinking.

    • I think you are right, Mike; the future will need to be very different from the past. If there’s a ‘luckily’ around that, it is that the present is already very different from the past our recent ancestors lived, so change is possible, and humans can ‘take it’.

      You’re also right that we are well and truly hooked on growth right now; not only is it a presupposition, not only is it emotionally uncomfortable to question, its abrogation would bring serious practical difficulties in politics and government, because in a non-growing economy, wealth is a zero-sum game. Hence issues around inequity become much more explosive.

      No doubt the oligarchs (here or elsewhere) would be OK with that, provided only that they can monopolize organized military, regulatory, and social force to control the rest of us, but they would face violent, recurrent and widespread resistance. And this dynamic would be operating at both intranational and transnational scales.

      So it’s vital to imagine how ZEG might look–things such as how people might live, how and whether ZEG might be achieved, how soon it needs to be achieved, possible pathways to achieving it, and values underlying various models of ZEG. (Eg., neo-feudalism as the Koch would surely plump for, vs. communitarian localism as espoused by some here (I think) and elsewhere.) I think the value of conversations such as this one is the stimulus to imagination and critical thinking on the subject(s). “If you build it, they will come”–but you can’t build it until you imagine it. And this is a hell of a big project.

  29. Doc, I greatly appreciate your comments.

    Re: “in a non-growing economy, wealth is a zero-sum game. Hence issues around inequity become much more explosive.” — I think with a dropping population the “zero sum” becomes less so.